Religions in Tibet
The majority of people in Tibet practice Buddhism. There are also a large number of Hindus in Tibet. Hinduism and Buddhism mingle together and share some festivals and the worship of Buddha. The most accepted religion in Tibet is Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism differs from other countries’ methods of practicing Buddhism. And with the increase in Chinese people in Tibet, Islam is now becoming more practiced and in fact, in Lhasa, there is quite a sizable Islamic community with there own market, shops, and Mosque. This place is called the Muslim quarter.
Hinduism is one of the oldest practiced religions, with firm roots extending back 1000 years BCE. It is based on a number of holy books, most important of these is The Four Vedas or books of “Divine Knowledge” which create foundations of Hindu philosophy. Dharma, Artha, and Karma are the three aims in the life of Hindu. i) For filling one’s duty to family and caste and gaining religious merit through having a wholesome life. (ii) The lawful making of wealth. (iii) Desire and satisfaction. A Hindu links these goals with the four stages they progress through in a full life.
- (i) Child and student-this time are devoted to learning about life and education and correct social behavior from their parents and guru.
- (ii) The house holder-at this time a person proves themselves by being able to manage a household and raise children, most importantly to bear a son.
- (iii) Meditation and solitude-once proved as a householder, a person is free to take up a life of celibacy and meditation.
- (iv) Finally, in the latter stages of life, a person renounces all possessions and ties in the hope to achieve Moksha.
The main concern for most Hindus is to reduce bad karma and to hopefully gain points to be born with a higher status in their next life. This is achieved by worship and honest and charitable living within the restrictions imposed by a person’s caste. Most Hindus have a shrine in their homes dedicated to a chosen Deity to which they perform a puja to every day. Puja is an act of prayer and offerings to a god.
The Buddhist religion was founded in Nepal around about 500 BCE, by Siddhartha Gautam who was known as Gautam Buddha. Siddhartha Gautam was born in Lumbini, Nepal to a very wealthy family and grew up as a prince. At the age of 30, unsatisfied by the explanation of worldly suffering by his Hindu gurus and convinced that asceticism did not lead to spiritual enlightenment, he renounced his family, riches, and lifestyle too pursue a life of mediation and wondering. During his mediation, in a place called Bodhgaya in India, he reached a state of enlightenment. After this, he spent the rest of his life teaching Dharma, the true nature of life, the world and spiritual attainment. Prior to his death, Buddha established a community of monks and nuns who took over his teachings. Most Buddhists, don’t consider Buddhism as a religion and they don’t consider Buddha to be a god. Buddhists consider Buddhism as a guide to living a good life, like a science for the mind and the deities found in the monasteries are there as symbols to aid deepened spiritual awareness. The Buddha’s view of life includes the Hindu concepts of samsara and Karma, but the ultimate goal of the religion is Nirvana a state of clarity of mind, pure understanding, and unimaginable bliss. Buddhism prohibits any form of killing. There are two main schools of Buddhism which are Hinayana and Mahayana. Where Hindus worship many gods, Buddhists chiefly worship Buddha, though some Buddhists also worship Shiva and other Hindu gods.
Buddhism was introduced to Tibet in the Seventh Century and integrated to a certain extent with the indigenous Bon culture before emerging as a faith considered incorporating all three vehicles: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Tibetan Buddhism recognizes a historical Buddha, known as Sakyamuni, alongside previous Buddha’s and a host of Bodhisattvas and protector deities. The Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, is the fourteenth in a succession of incarnate bodhisattvas. For Buddhist monks and nuns, and some members, meditation is an integral part of religious life. Most Buddhist concentrates on Dana and sila and on the auspicious day of Buddha’s birthday. Many Buddhist devotees gather together in silent meditation or join in chants taken from early Buddhist texts. Among Tibetan communities, devotees hang prayer flags, turn prayer wheels and set stones carved with mantras in rivers in hope that they are sending the word of Buddha with the wind and water to all corners of the world.
Unlike Hindus, Muslims believe in only one god-Allah. Islam is submission to god through strict rules and daily worship. Muslims pray five times a day, prayer is done in the mosque which is specially designed to face Mecca, the main pilgrim point for Muslims. Mecca is in Saudi Arabia and once a year during Hajji Millions of Muslims make the pilgrimage to this holiest place. There are also special prayer rooms in the house and workplaces for women and people who cannot make it to the mosque.